Chicago Bulls (1) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (8)
Regular Season H2H Record: 2-1 Bulls
This series features two teams with some of the best second units in the league. Both teams are built rock solid from one through ten, but Philly lacks the MVP caliber player that Chicago has in a healthy Derrick Rose, the operative word in this condensed season being “healthy”. Like many of his peers in this shortened season, Rose has suffered a litany of injuries that has kept him out of games and while the Bulls can probably beat a struggling 76ers team in a seven game series without him, they will need to use this series to allow Rose to get his legs under him for the later rounds. The 76ers managed to hold onto the eight seed despite struggling mightily after their blistering start to the season. In a matchup featuring two teams that preach defense, the 76ers chances to steal a game or two hinges on the job Andre Iguodala does containing Rose. He certainly has the strength, length, and athleticism to bother him and LeBron James set the blueprint for doing so in last year’s conference finals, which is why I fully expect Doug Collins to make the adjustment of using Iguodala over Holiday to do so. Look for Philly to lean on its second unit guard play of Lou Williams and Evan Turner. Williams and Turner will have to hit some jump shots to truly give Philly a fighting chance as knifing into the paint time after time is easier said than done against a Bulls second unit that has two legitimate shot blockers in Taj Gibson and Omer Asik.
Prediction: Bulls in 5.
Miami Heat (2) vs. New York Knicks (7)
Regular Season H2H Record: 3-0 Heat
Although I find the Grizzlies-Clippers matchup to be the most exciting of the first round, this matchup of two high-profile franchises is sure to garner more attention. The individual matchup between LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony will be a treat for fans. Melo has shown that he can play some very inspired defense when motivated and he has always relished the opportunity to go head to head with the league’s best. Perhaps equally as important is Iman Shumpert’s ability to slow down Dwyane Wade. Earlier this year, the ever
Prediction: Heat in 5